T.M.’s Reflection on the DC Program

There are many turning points during life time. For me one huge turning point was moving abroad when I was three years old. I thought that that would be my biggest turning point but this TOMODACHI US-Japan exchange turned out to be a huge turning point. By joining this program, I was able to learn and feel many things. This was my first time to go to America so everything was new and fresh to me.

The first thing I learned throughout this program is the American culture. I have lived in Belgium and in England for around half of my life so I know a little about European culture and I also know about Japanese culture. I was very interested in America and the culture they have so this was one reason I chose to participate in this exchange. By doing a homestay, I was able to learn a lot about the culture they have. The first thing I noticed is how they eat their food. In Japan, we tend to eat as a family facing each other at one big table. Whereas at my host family’s house, everyone was eating separately at different timings. I thought this was unique so I asked a student from Japan how they are eating their food. He said that their host family eats alone as well. Also the bath was a little different from Japan. In Japan, we have a space to clean our bodies out side the bath tub whereas in Europe and America, there is only a bath tub. By doing a homestay, I was able to learn a lot about the interesting differences we have and the American people have.

The second thing I learned by joining this program is that there are many different “wealth ranks” throughout the world. I went to a private school in elementary school and junior high school and I am going to a private school now so I did not notice the huge difference in wealth people have. By doing volunteering; handing out food to poor people, I was able to see the not so bright side of the society as well. We do have poverty in Japan too but it is not as vivid as it is in the US, so it was a great chance for me to see the unfair wealth distribution of tax. The difference between the “one percent” and the poor people.

The last thing I learned was english! The program was in English and there were many difficult vocabulary and terms so it was a great lesson for me. This program will help me pass an english exam we have in Japan so it was great spending time in the US.

To conclude, I was able to learn mainly three things during this stay, culture, politics and, language. It was also great spending time with the students from DC so I hope to keep in touch with them for the rest of my life.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School

Favorite American food so far!


My favorite food I ate during the stay in Washington, DC was crab cakes. I ate it at Alexandria beside the river and I was looking forward to eat it ever since I came here because my host family was recommending me it day after day. We sometimes eat crab in Japan but we don’t often, so it was good filling my mouth with crab.


The highlight of my dinner was the delicious pizza with onion and mushroom. I still remember the crisp crust and the melted cheese filling my mouth.


My favorite food I had over the stay here was a chili dog from Ben’s Chili Bowl, a combination of chili and hot dog that we never get to see in Japan.


My favorite food has been Philadelphia Cheesesteak so far. Compared to other kinds of sandwiches, they have higher but better taste. I would love to bring them to Japan for my friends if it were possible.


I liked the African American soul food. I especially liked the BBQ ribs because it was big and had a lot of sauce on it. I also liked it because it was strongly flavoured.


On my first day of this stay, I got to eat Azerbaijani food which my host mom made for me. My host mom, she experienced Peace Corps at Azerbaijan, so she made exactly how her host family in Azerbaijan taught her how to cook. Lentil soup, soup made out of green vegetable, and some Azerbaijani tea. These were a completely new eating experiences for me.

Social Entrepreneurship, Quilting and Hip Hop Classes

On Wednesday of the second week, we started the day by doing discussions about the things we learned from teaching Japanese Culture at a school called Malcolm X Elementary School, a freedom school named after Malcolm X who fought for the rights of African-Americans. The big idea we got by teaching was good values should be instilled when you are young and children are our future. We also had a discussion about the things we learned from an organization called Operation Understanding DC (OUDC), an organization only for Jews and African-Americans to promote respect, understanding, and cooperation. The big ideas we had from this were through conscious thinking, we can be aware of stereotypes and if we are not stuck in our beliefs, we are able to change our beliefs about other people.

After the discussions, we had a workshop on social entrepreneurship by LearnServe International. LearnServe International is an organization which promotes young people to stand up and make action. In the workshop we made an imaginary organization to solve problems we have worldwide. In our group, we thought that the social problem which we have in common in Japan and USA is the misuse of taxes. We came up with an idea of making an outside observation organization to watch without any bias.

After we had some lunch, we did quilting. We all made pieces of art connected to this 2014 TOMODACHI US-JAPAN EXCHANGE PROGRAM. After this we got on the metro to visit Words Beats and Life which is an organization that produces a global journal of Hip-Hop culture. We were able to experience three parts of Hip-Hop: DJ, dancing, and graffiti.

By having the workshop by LearnServe International, I was able to notice that we have many social problems which are similar. In our group, we had thought that the misuse of taxes is a social problem in both Japan and the USA but other groups had different thoughts. One group said that smoking and second hand smoke is a social problem and another group talked about laziness. I was able to sympathize with all of these thoughts because I think that laziness and NEET’s are a social problem in both Japan and the US. I was able to learn that although we have a completely different culture, the social problems we have are the same. I was also able to learn that it is never too young to make an action to make a difference. I heard about a high-school student making an organization to help children to go to college by giving money. However, I also learned that most of these organizations are run with the support of many people.

At the quilting workshop, we all made pieces of art connected to this program. I made one with two tennis rackets and a tennis ball which is based on a Japanese saying “To make good relations, it is important to do a catch ball of words.” I arranged it a little to a tennis racket because I belong in the tennis club.

At the Hip-Hop classes, we had a great time learning DJ, dances, and graffiti. At the DJ class, we were able to do some of the things they do. It was harder than I thought because I had to make the timings correct. At the dance class, we learned the basic steps, which is used in Hip-Hop. I am not a good dancer so I had lots of things to learn but it was fun learning the dances. At the graffiti class, we were able to draw things on the practice walls they had; it was hard because by changing the distance and speed, the look of the paint changes.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School

T.M. – July 22nd

On Tuesday of the first week, we did many things. After we met up in the American Council’s office, we had a workshop by Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Pulitzer Center is a journalism organization which supports independent journalism that U.S media organizations rarely show. After having their introduction of their jobs, we went outside to take photos of things which are surprising and different for us, and a photo of things which are familiar to us. After one hour of photo taking, we went back to the office to share the pictures we took. Next, after lunch, we went on a bus to have a tour of Washington, DC. The bus covered basically every part of Washington, DC; we went to East Potomac Park, Frederick Douglass’ house, and Georgetown. When we got back to the office, we shared some of the thoughts we were able to have during the bus tour.

By having the workshop by Pulitzer Center, I was able to learn many things. The first thing I was able to learn was that both the things in the foreground and the background can tell a story. I was shocked to see a photograph of a border town in Mexico. In the foreground of the picture, there were children who could not receive enough education and using drugs, whereas in the background of the photograph was the lights of Texas which is a place where it has great environments to study. The second thing I learned by taking photos are that, even though we have a different culture in Japan and Washington, DC, there are many similarities in the city. The one I noticed is that there are police cars in front of the White House. It is the same in Japan; we have police in front of important buildings.

On the bus tour, I was able to learn and feel many things too. The biggest thing everyone in the group noticed were the disparity of wealth in different parts of the district. I was able to see the differences in houses people live in because the houses differed in material and size. It was interesting for me to see the houses change in a small distance because in Japan, we can’t see the wealth disparity as well as we can see here. So, today was a day I could learn a lot from photographs.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School